The efficacy of instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization: a systematic review
PainSci summary of Cheatham 2016?This page is one of thousands in the PainScience.com bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focussed on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided at the bottom of the page, as often as possible. ★★★☆☆?3-star ratings are for average studies, with no more (or less) than the usual common problems. Ratings are a highly subjective opinion, and subject to revision at any time. If you think this paper has been incorrectly rated, please let me know.
This is the first review of studies of an unusual and controversial massage technique: using tools to “scrape” soft tissue. The authors evaluated seven studies, five of which were controlled, and “the results of the studies were insignificant with both groups displaying equal outcomes.” Although there’s not much good evidence to review, the research so far “challenges the efficacy of IASTM as a treatment for common musculoskeletal pathology.”
One slightly positive note was that there is “some evidence supporting its ability to increase short term joint ROM,” for whatever it’s worth (not much — short term increases in ROM have no clear clinical value in and of themselves). As always, more study is needed, and some benefits might be discovered by studying the right people in the right way, but the first several tests have failed to show any obvious benefit.
BACKGROUND: Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a popular treatment for myofascial restriction. IASTM uses specially designed instruments to provide a mobilizing effect to scar tissue and myofascial adhesions. Several IASTM tools and techniques are available such as the Graston® technique. Currently, there are no systematic reviews that have specifically appraised the effects of IASTM as a treatment or to enhance joint range of motion (ROM).
PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to systematically appraise the current evidence assessing the effects of IASTM as an intervention to treat a musculoskeletal pathology or to enhance joint ROM.
METHODS: A search of the literature was conducted during the month of December 2015 which included the following databases: PubMed, PEDro, Science Direct, and the EBSCOhost collection. A direct search of known journals was also conducted to identify potential publications. The search terms included individual or a combination of the following: instrument; assisted; augmented; soft-tissue; mobilization; Graston®; and technique.
RESULTS: A total of 7 randomized controlled trials were appraised. Five of the studies measured an IASTM intervention versus a control or alternate intervention group for a musculoskeletal pathology. The results of the studies were insignificant (p>.05) with both groups displaying equal outcomes. Two studies measured an IASTM intervention versus a control or alternate intervention group on the effects of joint ROM. The IASTM intervention produced significant (P<.05) short term gains up to 24 hours.
CONCLUSION: The literature measuring the effects of IASTM is still emerging. The current research has indicated insignificant results which challenges the efficacy of IASTM as a treatment for common musculoskeletal pathology, which may be due to the methodological variability among studies. There appears to be some evidence supporting its ability to increase short term joint ROM.
These two articles on PainScience.com cite Cheatham 2016 as a source:
- PS Save Yourself from IT Band Syndrome! — All your treatment options for Iliotibial Band Syndrome reviewed in great detail, with clear explanations of recent scientific research supporting every key point
- PS Tissue Provocation Therapies — Can healing be forced? The laws of tissue adaptation & therapies like Prolotherapy & Graston Technique